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Posted: 1:34 PM- Every election, the Salt Lake County clerk faces the same problem _ finding thousands of poll workers willing to work long hours for little pay on Election Day.
For months, her office begs, pleads and makes cold calls in search of workers.
"We end up recruiting poll workers right up until the day of," Sherrie Swensen said. "If we don't get enough poll workers we just can't run the election."
In 2006, she came up with what she believed was an innovative solution: Ask corporations and civic groups for volunteers in exchange for a little publicity at the voting site.
Seven groups sent workers, including EnergySolutions, a Utah-based company that describes itself as the largest handler of radioactive waste in the United States.
But outrage followed when voters in some liberal precincts in Salt Lake City saw people wearing EnergySolutions shirts.
"Voting is a sacred act in our democracy, and it's critical to keep our polling stations a refuge from the influence of special interests," said Vanessa Pierce, director of HEAL Utah, a group that opposes nuclear waste.
Swensen, a Democrat, said she never imagined anyone would take offense. She said her office hasn't received any complaints.
EnergySolutions spent the past year working to improve its image after an unpopular effort to double the size of its radioactive-waste dump in Tooele County. The company bought the naming rights to the arena where the Utah Jazz play and aired numerous TV commercials. In November, it became a publicly traded company.
EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said the company provides workers as a public service, not to get a free advertisement.
"We've had some people volunteer because they enjoy the political process and a lot of times they may be coming in early to work," he said. "If they are asked not to wear a piece of clothing that has any type of logo, we certainly will comply with that."
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said he heard numerous complaints from voters about the EnergySolutions workers.
"It's a perception problem," he said. "Voters come in and see their poll workers who are running the election, and they're plastered with some kind of corporate logo. Why would we want the people who are supposed to be administering an election in a neutral way ... to be wearing that?"
oy is sponsoring a bill to ban logos that can be linked to a corporation or advocacy group.
"If the only reason why EnergySolutions employees are volunteering is so they can get free advertising on Election Day, they shouldn't be poll workers. It's not an advertising opportunity," he said.
Swensen said she understands the concerns about her Partners in Democracy Program. She said she's willing to take away the corporate logos and doesn't believe a law is necessary.
But McCoy fears the issue could pop up in other counties. He said voters in conservative Utah County might be just as upset if the American Civil Liberties Union or the gay-rights group Equality Utah sponsored a poll there.
"It's not that much of an imposition for someone to wear a shirt that day that doesn't have anything on it," he said. "When you're weighing the burden of the poll workers versus the perception (problem), a neutral election tips the scale and wins."
Swensen said she doesn't think any of the seven groups that sent volunteers would withdraw if logos were banned. Still, recruiting poll workers remains difficult: The county is short 450 for Utah's Feb. 5 presidential primary.
Other states have felt a pinch.
In Colorado, a shortage of experienced workers handling new voting machines in one county was blamed for programming errors and test failures.
In Ohio, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner suggested getting poll workers like courts enlist jurors, making it mandatory for registered voters.
"This was us trying to be innovative," Swensen said. "We're just always trying to be creative about ways to get more people to donate their time."